Leonard Nimoy and Me

Let’s start this with a practical joke that I collaborated on with Leonard Nimoy as the target.

In May, 1974 I was a young writer living in Manhattan, and I’d just started working on my first novel, a few years later published as Alongside Night. One of my friends was Michael Moslow, another writer who circled around the NYU Science Fiction Society and its two founders, Samuel Edward Konkin III (at that time an NYU post-graduate student in Theoretical Chemistry) and another NYU post-graduate student, Richard Friedman.

One of the advantages of hanging around NYU students and attending an on-campus club, to non-NYU-students like Mike and myself, was easy access to the many celebrities who came to lecture. One of them was 1956 Nobel laureate in Physics, William Shockley, who at the time was much more controversial for his writings outside of his field, on eugenics and comparing the intelligence of racial groups.

There were, not unexpectedly, major campus protests against Shockley speaking on the NYU campus, covered widely by all media. It was big news.

Mike and I did not attend Shockley’s lecture. But speaking in the same NYU auditorium exactly one week after Shockley (and without any protests) was Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock … and I had a sick idea that once I told it to Mike he could not be stopped doing it. Not that I even tried.

Nimoy began his lecture to a packed house, Mike sitting near the back of the hall, me seated somewhere nowhere near Mike, because I wasn’t a complete fool.

About twenty minutes into Nimoy’s talk, Mike jumps up and shouts, “I came to hear Shockley. This isn’t Shockley! Who’s this clown?”

Everyone, including Nimoy, cracked up as Mike marched himself out of the auditorium, still shouting.

At a Star Trek convention not long after that I met Leonard Nimoy and let him in on the joke, which he remembered and still thought was funny.

(This was also the convention where I first met Nichelle Nichols, who three decades later starred in my first feature film, Lady Magdalene’s.)

Look, I’m a Trekkie old enough to have watched Star Trek in its original first-run NBC broadcasts. A TV Guide description of the next episode was enough for me to convince my ninth-grade history teacher to write on the blackboard the episode “Bread and Circuses,” broadcast on the Ides of March, 1968.

In later life I’ve worked professionally with four actors from Star Trek series: Nichelle Nichols, Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series, starred in the title role of the first feature film I wrote, produced, and directed, Lady Magdalene’s.

Tim Russ (Tuvok in Star Trek Voyager), Garrett Wang (Ensign Kim in Star Trek Voyager), and Gary Graham (Ambassador Soval in Star Trek Enterprise) all have featured roles in the second feature film I wrote, produced, and directed, Alongside Night.

When I spoke with Ayn Rand in August 1973 I asked her about Star Trek.

“She told me that she watched Star Trek and Spock was her favorite character.”
–J. Neil Schulman: “I Met Ayn Rand

Leonard Nimoy at the 2011 Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore

So Star Trek has a permalink in my consciousness.

But Star Trek, and Leonard Nimoy in particular, also had a profound impact on my understanding and describing some of the most mysterious experiences in my life.

Here’s three excerpts from my book The Heartmost Desire, describing aspects of those experiences.

Now, I had thought of myself as somebody who, if he identified with any character out of Star Trek, it was Spock. I was out of control. Suddenly my emotions were out of control. It was “Amok Time” — or something like that — without the mating ritual.

It got to the point where on the night before my birthday I lay down in bed and this feeling of uncertainty — and remember this combined with this death phobia — I was afraid I was going to die from this, that something was happening in me that was killing me. I didn’t know what it was.

I lay down in bed – and bed for me was a futon on the floor in this bedroom – and I felt a hand on my heart inside my chest. I can’t describe it any other way. I felt a physical presence of a hand, as if it was holding my heart. Not squeezing it but holding it so I could feel it. In my head I heard this voice and it said to me, “I can take you now.”

Suddenly my worst fear, death was coming, you know, God is going to take me. I’m in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode. Hand on my heart. I’m scared to death – literally. And a voice — The Voice, which I knew was God’s voice — was saying, “I can take you now.” And I was scared.

Something unusual happened at that point. The Voice, which had just said “I can take you now,” started laughing at me.

And I said, “Why are you laughing at me?”

And The Voice — God, I might as well just say God, because that’s how I identified it — God said to me then “Because I can’t believe that you’re scared.”

I said, “Why would you be surprised that I’m scared? I’ve always been scared of death. You’re surprised that I’m scared?”

It was totally inexplicable to me that while this is going on, God’s first reaction is to be astonished, and laugh, that I am scared of death. Who am I that God would be surprised that I’m scared of death? I’m not a war hero, who’s been an Audie Murphy who’s charged machine-gun nests, or anything like that. Why on Earth would God be surprised by that? This was one of the things going on while I am, in essence, scared out of my mind.

After He stopped laughing at me, God said “You have to make a choice. I can take you now. You will die now or I can let you live but here’s the thing. No more promises. No more deals. You have in your mind somewhere that you can make a deal with me and I’m going to make everything come out all right and you’re going to be safe from everything and you’re not going to die and the people around you, who you keep on praying for constantly, are not going to die. And if you stay – if I don’t take you now – all bets are off. You stay, unconditionally, with no promises, and whatever happens, you have to let happen.”

And I was more scared of death than of fate. And so I said “I’ll stay.”

And I felt The Hand leave my heart. I had accepted the contract.

I thought, at that point, I wonder if this is simply some sort of psychological event, some fantasy my body is having to tell me that I’m having a heart attack?

BRAD LINAWEAVER: While this was going on, weren’t you thinking about Heinlein’s situation as well as your own?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I was thinking in terms of everybody. Not just Heinlein, but I was praying for my parents, and my wife, and all my friends, you know, “Don’t let any of them die, don’t let me die, don’t let anybody die.”

BRAD LINAWEAVER: I just remember conversations I had with you at the time. Heinlein seemed to be very prominent in your mind.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Very prominent, but at that particular moment I don’t know, okay? But again, it was this clinging to God, praying so tight that nobody dies, that no harm comes to everybody. You know this panicked clinging, which was what He was breaking. In essence He was telling me, “Don’t pray so much! because I’d been praying every day, constantly. Not just the Lord’s Prayer, but also the prayers for everybody to be okay – and not in the Christian sense of praying for their soul – but praying for them physically not to die, not to get hit by a truck.

So, God ended that at that moment.

Nonetheless, again, being the rationalist, I’m thinking maybe this is my science-fiction writer’s brain telling me that I’m having a heart attack. So at this point I woke up my roommate and I said, “Call the paramedics, I think I’m having a heart attack.”

The paramedics arrived and they put those sensors on me to do the electrocardiogram, which they do instantly, and they looked at me like I was crazy. They said, “Your heart is perfectly fine. What are you talking about? There’s nothing going on.” One of them asked me an interesting question. He said, “Are you going through a divorce right now?”

“No,” I said, “everything’s fine. My wife is coming out tomorrow to celebrate my birthday. Everything’s great. But I thought I was having a heart attack.”

“No, you’re not having a heart attack. Forget it, you’re fine!”

They didn’t even want to take me down to the hospital for observation. My heart must have been rock steady at that point.

They left. My roommate went back to sleep. And my panic was over.

Whatever had happened – now that I knew that I was not dying — what had been going on for a week, with this recurring hyperventilation, this emotional lability, it stopped at that instant.

It was over. The event was over.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, important question. So what would have been your first contact with God — when it was over you thought it might very well be God but you weren’t one-hundred-percent certain that it was God?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was pretty certain that it was God.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Ninety percent or one-hundred percent?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Ninety-eight percent.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But there was still two percent of doubt?


BRAD LINAWEAVER: So you thought very likely it was God but you weren’t totally convinced, just almost.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. There was always that two percent of doubt because I might be crazy. I knew that the human body was capable of doing odd things, and the human brain was capable of doing odd things. I thought that maybe I was suffering from some toxic poisoning from coffee or something like that. Maybe this was some sort of hallucinated experience.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now another question. What would be your first encounter with God? Because a lot of people who have known you over the years, when they see your license plate “I met God,” or when they see the title of this book, are going to be thinking about your econd encounter — which we we’re not getting to for a while yet — which you call the Mind Meld with God, which is the most intense meeting with God. But, in fact, this is the first meeting with God?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: This is the first direct encounter, or actually the first one which I identify as a direct encounter, because I have had experiences —

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But this is not the Mind Meld. That was a later experience?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. This is a frightening and entirely confronting and unpleasant experience.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: And, it’s the most unusual thing about what would be your first encounter of God. The first time you move from agnosticism to pretty damn close to the theistic position, that you now believe there is a God. You’re awful close to it now, that the first thing, in effect, you get out of your first encounter with God is?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: God telling me to stop praying.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right! You don’t normally hear that from somebody who prays, prays, prays — God finally communicates and says, “Stop all that praying!”

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. Bizarre. And also, just as bizarre, God laughing at me because he can’t believe that I’m afraid.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right, so there’s two things. The sense of humor, which a large part of your argument about God, you’ve argued. A large part of your novel, Escape from Heaven, and many times on Jack’s show when you’re explaining your real beliefs, your view that God has a sense of humor, is a very, very important part of everything you’ve been building out of these experiences. This was the first time you had the idea that God had a sense of humor, his laughing at your fear?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. You know a really rough sense of humor.

But two events happen. One of them is Heinlein dies. I let go and a few weeks after that he’s dead. Okay? I’m told that I can’t keep him alive any more and a few weeks later he’s dead. And it’s almost like what was going on with me was not, in fact, a caffeine reaction, or a coffee reaction or something like that. But in essence this link, which I have set up psychically with Heinlein, is killing me, and unless I let go I’m going to die.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Die along with Heinlein or in place of Heinlein?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Along with, I’ll go with him.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Were there were links to others, too? It sounds like there were a couple of links.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but the others weren’t dying. I’ve linked up with a number of people and one of them is dying and it’s going to drag me along with it. On the metaphysical level if we want to look at it in these terms, that’s what was happening.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: This psychic link with a dying person, dangerous move.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And then he dies, May 8th, was that the date?

Now. Something else happens, very significant. I have a dream.

In my dream I am in a courtroom and to my side is my counsel and my counsel is a woman and my counsel is God.

Not, in some same sense, the God who had his masculine hand on my heart a few weeks before that. But God as a female and God is my lawyer.

And there is a panel, a panel of judges up on the judge’s bench, and I’m at the defendant’s table. Although it’s more of a hearing, an inquiry, than a trial, I’m not on trial for having done something wrong. But it is a court of inquiry. And the question before the court, I am told by God, my lawyer who is female, is, “Why was I afraid?”

BRAD LINAWEAVER: The same question repeated?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. What was it, why was I afraid? God is obviously surprised that I could be afraid and apparently it’s something that needs to be resolved.

Here is something very interesting, I am told by God, my lawyer who is female, “The judges need your permission to unlock the records. They are sealed. None of us are allowed to look at them without your permission. Will you give us permission to look so that we can find out why you are afraid of death?”

I said “Yes, permission granted.”

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But God is asking for permission to look at sealed records in effect.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Not only God but all these judges in this courtroom.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: But what’s impressive is, God won’t look at these records without permission. Do I have this right?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. And I said, “Yes you can look.” And only a few seconds go by — it’s not like court is adjourned, we’ll be back later — a few seconds go by and they have the answer immediately after I give permission.

I am told, “We have just searched the records and what we found out was that in your immediate incarnation before this you were murdered as an infant and died not understanding what was going on, that the imprint of this carried over into your current life as fear, as an irrational fear of death.”

Now, I woke up from this dream and the phobia that had dogged me my entire life up to that moment was gone.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: The phobia was gone?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The phobia — something, which had dogged me my entire life – was gone. Okay?

Now what sort of dream is it that you have, that changes your life, that changes something fundamental about you? This was remarkable to me, I have a dream and then suddenly, this thing which I have never been able to go to bed without distracting myself so I wouldn’t think about death, suddenly this is gone?

BRAD LINAWEAVER: The dream reinforced the first meeting with God. You could actually argue that this dream is either an epilog to or a second encounter with God, but it’s logically tied to that first encounter. It is all of a piece with the hand on the heart and that you’ve got to let go what you are afraid of, all of that is a piece of the same experience, the same event. Therefore, at the end of what might be called this first encounter with God, you’ve had a major psychological change and you as somebody who used to be an atheist, and then have gone through this agnostic period, are wondering why the thing that would get you over the hump of such a dire problem, why you of all people ould be imagining that it’s God? Since you’ve never felt for most of your life a need for God.


BRAD LINAWEAVER: And yet God shows up in this situation and suddenly a huge life problem of yours is resolved. It’s like, what is it eight years later when you have the Mind Meld? There’s a good chunk of a decade that separates this event from the next encounter with God. Which means you’re not just having — like these people who claim they have born again experiences and God’s in their heart and they’re in communication with God all the time — you go through a long period of time from this moment to the next time you have an encounter with God.

–J. Neil Schulman, The Heartmost Desire (Section 2, “I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith,” Chapter 3: Contact)

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Napoleon, or Jesus Christ. As you say, the asylums are full of people who claim to be Jesus Christ or Mary or something like that. But the point is they’re going around trying to convince other people of it.

The last thing I wanted to do was tell anybody about this. Because, if I thought I was crazy, certainly they would think I was crazy, too! I didn’t want to tell anybody that I was considering — inside my skull — the idea that I was God. They’d put me away!

I was pretty much back to myself after the first few weeks, when I started feeling physically stronger again, and no longer had this fear that this was an end-of-life experience. Because, by the way, people who I’ve spoken to about this experience since, say that, in some senses, it matches up with the near-death experiences of those who have had their hearts stopped or something like that and found themselves out of themselves. Because, when I would try to explain that I was out of my personality, people would hear it and think of it as an out-of-body experience.

I wasn’t out of my body. God was in my body with me. That was different.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, it’s definitely flipped from the normal. It’s definitely different.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. So, again, I didn’t want to go around telling anybody I was God. Not during the experience and not afterwards.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: You weren’t floating around looking at your own body. You had decided that God had invaded your body —

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No, it wasn’t an invasion because it was welcome. The experience was entirely welcome.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: I don’t know what verb to use but God had overlapped with, intruded upon…

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about had communed with me?

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or double exposured, or whatever?

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about conversation in the Biblical sense? That it was a joining? Instead of a physical joining it was a spiritual joining? Or to use the metaphor which I came up with later, it was a Mind Meld.

–J. Neil Schulman, The Heartmost Desire (Section 2, “I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith,” Chapter 8: Aftermath)

After the book is already published, after Escape from Heaven is in print, that’s when I start discovering what I put into the book. What God has revealed to me without my even knowing it.

And two things in particular. One is that I got ahold of Leonard Nimoy’s photographic book, Shekhina, and I had never heard the word Shekhina before then. But this is what was interesting to me, and here is the sequence of knowledge and learning here.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: Back to kabbalah…

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Leonard Nimoy was raised Jewish, in Boston, and when he was taken to the Orthodox synagogue, you had the ritual of everybody turns their back so they can’t see the Holy of Holies and I guess the Rabbi holds up his hands and does the Vulcan greeting, as we know, with the two fingers separated into a “V” in the middle.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: “Live long and prosper!”

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The “Live long and prosper” symbol, which is a representation, Nimoy explains in his book Shekhina, of the Hebrew letter “shin,” if I’m not mistaken, which is the representation of Shekhina. Shekhina being the Holy Spirit, the feminine aspect of God.

And I am learning, when I start now researching this — having learned about it — that it’s God’s wife, the female aspect of God. And here’s the important part: the advocate of man to God.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: I have to ask you a question.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But let me, before you ask me the question. I can’t let this go by without emphasizing it too strongly.

We go back to 1988 where I had that dream, the dream that changes my life, where my attorney — my advocate — is God and she is a woman. God was a woman in my dream, okay?

I put that in Escape from Heaven and now I find out that Shekhina, the Holy Spirit in Judaism, is a central part of the hidden kabbalistic doctrines, and I’ve met her in my dream in 1988, and put her in a novel? And only now I find out who she is? That the defender of humanity before God, in essence, represented me?

This is — I’m starting to think — this is a central part of Judaism which I never knew about.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: I always thought it was a hidden part of Judaism.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Hidden, but you know it’s not something I was taught in the year of Hebrew School.

BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s what I mean, I always thought it was kind of like secretive.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It is. It’s secretive. It is deliberately secretive.

Here is Leonard Nimoy doing a book about it, telling me about it, starting me researching about it, and what I find out is that who Shekhina is, the Holy Spirit, the defender of man before God, was in my dream, defending me in 1988, after I had the experience where I had God — the male God — having His hand on my heart.

I’m blown away when I learn this.

–J. Neil Schulman, The Heartmost Desire (Section 2, “I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith,” Chapter 9: Collaboration)

These experiences formed the backdrop of my 2002 third novel, Escape from Heaven, so when I first received printed copies of the novel I decided that the man who had told me about the Shekhina should be given a copy.

Living in Culver City it wasn’t far to drive to Leonard Nimoy’s house in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles.

As I drove up the gate was open, and Leonard and Susan Nimoy were outside their house. Susan approached me. “Delivery for Leonard Nimoy,” I said. “No signature needed.”

Leonard Nimoy’s eyes were on me as I handed Susan the package with the book. I don’t have any idea how well he could see me or whether there was any chance he’d recognize me from our few convention encounters. But while Leonard Nimoy was looking at me, I gave him the Vulcan split-finger salute and said, “Live long and prosper.”

Susan Nimoy smiled but Leonard Nimoy didn’t return the Vulcan salute and in true Vulcan fashion, he didn’t smile as I drove away.

Escape from Heaven book cover

Bookmark and Share

My newest book: The Heartmost Desire

I’ve been spending so much of my time promoting Alongside Night in all its editions — novel, movie, graphic novel, and audiobook — that I have been neglecting to promote my brand-new nonfiction book, The Heartmost Desire, released in September as both a trade paperback and a Kindle edition which is only $2.99 for full purchase.

Friends: I consider The Heartmost Desire to be both my most personal book and my hardest-core case for individual liberty. This is the book I wrote to appeal to people who need examples from real life for why liberty is necessary for personal happiness and neither State nor organized religion can free their soul.

The Heartmost Desire also contains my autobiographical description of the experiences that led me from atheism to God, but still relying on reason and rejecting religion, scripture, and faith.

I have just set up a promotion on which will run from November 1st through 5th, 2013. For the first five days in November 2013 the Kindle edition of The Heartmost Desire will be FREE.

Kindle editions can be read not only on Kindles but on any tablet or smart phone as well as any desk or notebook computer since there are Kindle apps for just about anything.

Don’t miss this opportunity and please pass this along to your friends.

Remember, the free Kindle edition promotion begins on November 1st and ends November 5th!


J. Neil Schulman

Book Cover of The Heartmost Desire

From the preface and foreword by fellow Prometheus-award-winning novelist, Brad Linaweaver:

Over the years many fans of J. Neil Schulman have said they want another book by him. Sometimes you get what you ask for … but it’s not always what you think you want.

Neil Schulman is one of those writers who doesn’t just write the same book over and over and over. He writes a book when he has something to say.

Neil crams more into single paragraphs than other libertarians put into entire boring tomes. He can rattle off more limitations on our supposed free speech that most of us ever consider. He can recite a list of cultural taboos to frighten the staunchest social conservative. Neil is a libertarian. So why is he so often in hot water with other libertarians, the natural audience for this book? …

A libertarian defends the right to be wrong. It takes a lot of effort to initiate force or fraud. Short of that, the libertarian is tolerant of actions that liberals and conservatives cannot understand. But a libertarian also has the right to judge the value of values.

A libertarian can have common sense. He can weigh the good and the bad in the shadowlands where ideas have yet to be put into practice. There is one kind of libertarian who will derive no benefit from the words that follow. That is someone who has no heart.

Join discussion of The Heartmost Desire on its official Facebook page.

Bookmark and Share

ObamaCare Blowback

I received a certified letter from my physician yesterday.

It read:

This letter will serve as notification to you that (clinic name) is withdrawing you from further treatment as of the date of this letter. You are hereby discharged from care by all of our physicians and treatment locations. … We suggest that you place yourself under the care of another physician and medical facility immediately.

My doctor was firing me as a patient? What was up? Was I dying from some disease they had failed to properly diagnose, and they were hoping I was dead before I discovered their malpractice and sued? Did the nurse who couldn’t draw blood from my arm file a grievance against me as a preemptive move? Had I failed to pay a bill?

None of the above.

Star of Life

I phoned the doctor’s office today. They are no longer accepting any patient who doesn’t sign up for their “Concierge Service” — a yearly fee in four figures for unlimited clinic visits.

Cash only.

No medical insurance accepted, no Medicare, total opting out from any part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — ObamaCare.

Welcome to the future of private medical practice in the United States.

Now in post-production: Alongside Night. Look for it later this year!

Bookmark and Share


Two years ago today I wrote:

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday!

I’m now available in all the Heinz varieties. I’m 57 today.

No, this isn’t an applause sign going on. Don’t feel you have to start wishing me a happy birthday. Hey, I’m not dead yet, my senses still pretty much work, I’m not missing limbs or in a wheelchair, I can still think and write, and my memory doesn’t suck yet. My Mom’s still with me and my daughter just wants me to finish reading the first Harry Potter book she gave me last year so I can start on the second she gave me for this birthday. That’s making me damned happy as it is.

The most important thing about this birthday is that I reach it with exactly the same sense of purpose and enthusiasm about my future as I had for my 18th and 21st birthdays. Maybe more, because I’ve developed new skill sets I didn’t have when I was younger.

If I went back in time and told my younger self that later in life I could look back on having written a dozen books — with praise for them from some of my favorite authors and other people I respect — and that I’d write for The Twilight Zone, and that I’d write, produce, direct, act in, and write songs for a movie starring one of the original Bridge Crew from Star Trek, well, assuming I didn’t think I was a damned liar, my younger self would have thought this an unbelievably fantastic future. So it’s that wet-behind-the-ears former me who has to be wishing me the best on a birthday in which I can look back at dreams fulfilled … and to look forward to making more of them come true.

Five years ago today I said:

Author J. Neil Schulman responds to Virginia Tech shootings

And today I have this to say:

I celebrate my 59th year on this planet feeling that I don’t need a bucket list. All the rest of how to evaluate how I’ve spent my time here is the judgment of others.

Hope I’m still worth the carbon dioxide I’m exhaling.


This article is Copyright © 2012 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

Why the Customer is Always Right

I live in Pahrump, Nevada. I wrote, produced, and directed my movie Lady Magdalene’s here in Pahrump. I’m writing this from Pahrump.

Most people know of Pahrump for only one of two things. The first is that Pahrump has the two legal brothels closest to Las Vegas. The second is that Art Bell broadcast his immensely popular and spooky late-night radio show from Pahrump — what he charmingly called “the Kingdom of Nye” — just a hop, skip, and a jump from Area 51.

Pahrump is a town of about 40,000. It has a 24-hour Walmart, recently got its first Carl’s, Jr., but does not have a single movie theater.

It has two major casino hotels in what passes for “downtown” Pahrump. The first, the Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Gambling Hall, can be seen as a shooting location in Lady Magdalene’s. About half my cast and crew stayed there during the principal photography of Lady Magdalene’s in May-June 2006.

The other, the Saddle West Hotel, Casino, and RV Resort, was not on screen in Lady Magdalene’s, but the other half of my cast and crew — including my line producer — stayed there during principal photography. I also held our cast and crew wrap party there.

The Saddle West, 1220 South Highway 160 in Pahrump, NV 89048

I was writing a lot of checks during the production of Lady Magdalene’s. I’m pretty sure the checks for rooms and food written to the Saddle West from my production added up to more than $25,000.

You’ll find the Saddle West thanked in the end credits of Lady Magdalene’s.

The Saddle West has a restaurant and buffet. Like most Nevada casinos, the purpose of the buffet is to draw people in to gamble. So the quality of the food at Nevada casinos tends to be what we used to call when I lived in California “better than a Denny’s.” You’ll tend to get good salad bars, Italian food about at Olive Garden quality, and generally food at hotel quality level — good enough to be served at a wedding, if you’re not too fussy. And, it’s cheaper than Denny’s or IHOP. If one lives in Pahrump and gambles at the Saddle West enough to average 800 “points” on one’s player’s club card, one qualifies for a “two-for-one” buffet Sunday through Thursday. That means dinner for two is $8.95 — and the money you would have spent on the other dinner as often as not ends up in one of the slot machines … and then some.

I’ve eaten at the Saddle West frequently enough for all the waitresses to know my mother and myself by name — and they know my mother and my drink orders by heart. The ladies at the Players Club desk also know me by name.

I was 86’ed from the Saddle West tonight. My God, what did I do? Did they catch me running a magnet on one of the slot machines to try and get it to pay off? Nope. Was I counting cards at the 21 table? Yeah, like I have a good enough memory for that.


My mom — who is 85, has no gall bladder, is Type II diabetic, is half blind, and has memory problems these days — was recently diagnosed with a hiatal hernia. That means her stomach tends to crowd her esophagus, which before we got that sorted out caused her to be hospitalized twice with extreme gastritis, nausea, and dehydration. I kept her at home for a couple of weeks following the latter hospitalization getting her digestive system calmed down, and we eventually reached a point where I was willing to take her out to eat again. I chose the Saddle West because its buffet tends to have a lot of bland food on it — pasta with white sauce, mashed potatoes, unseasoned rice.

Because of my mom’s hiatal hernia, she can barely eat even a quarter of a meal at a time. If I make her a sandwich, half needs to be put away for later.

So tonight, I took my mom to the Saddle West for dinner (a friend accompanied us) and I put a small portion of lasagna and manicotti on my mom’s plate. She was able to eat only a few bites of each and was full. So she asked me to wrap it up and put it in her bag for later.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I know every buffet has rules against taking food home. But I also know that any food left on the table is going to be thrown out — has to be thrown out — by health code rules. So by my way of thinking — in a world in which many people are starving — there’s something sinful about throwing away food in the first place; and if the food which I’m wrapping up for my mother is already garbage by the restaurant’s rules — and is food that my mother’s medical condition prevents her from eating at one sitting — I figured it’s a rule a casino buffet can and should overlook for a regular.

By the living standards of a small town — a town too small even for its own movie theater — I thought there was a reasonable expectation that good business, decent treatment of the elderly, and small town manners could overlook such a petty infraction of the house rules.

Nope. Tonight, two burly security guards came to our table and turned not to me — who had wrapped up my mom’s food in a napkin and put it in her purse — nor my mom — who asked me to do this for her — but instead went to my friend and asked him to accompany them.

I figured out what was going on in short order, told the security guards that I was the one who had wrapped up the food, and asked my friend to go back to the table to stay with my mom.

The guards treated me like I was caught trying to rob the till. I offered to pay an additional buffet price for the take-out food and one of the guards told me — and this is a direct quote, “You can’t buy your way out of this one.”


The amount of food — excuse me, garbage — I wrapped up on my mom’s plate probably had a street value of zero. I doubt a homeless person would have taken it as a hand-out.

Yet, for this the floor manager of the Saddle West was willing to treat a regular customer as a thief, embarrass him in front of his mother, harass his friend merely for sitting at a table with him.

She told me the “86” would be only for a month, then I could come back. I told her that I was 86’ing myself, permanently, that she had lost a customer who regularly took friends there to eat and gamble.

Every business has the right to set the rules under which they make customers welcome or unwelcome.

But it works both ways. Every customer has the right to put a business on his 86 list … and the Saddle West in Pahrump, Nevada is now permanently on mine.

It’s a good thing for them I’m a libertarian and not inclined to be litigious, because I’m pretty sure I could cause the Saddle West a lot of grief by making this a federal case under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I won’t. I’ll just wait for them to understand that this is an economic climate where the cost of treating customers rudely is to lose customers … and the friends they would have taken there. Do that enough and word spreads.

Hey, I’m a writer, with words to spread.

Saddle West: Buh-bye.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share

The Heinlein-Konkin Birthday Party

Samuel Edward Konkin IIIRobert A. Heinlein

For many years my friend Samuel Edward Konkin III –SEK3, for brevity — always celebrated his July 8th birthday in conjunction with Robert A. Heinlein’s July 7th birthday. When both were alive, it was not uncommon for me to put in a phone call to Mr. Heinlein so I could put Sam on the phone with him, and they could wish each other Happy Birthday.

Sam was a nocturnal creature at best, and an alien at worst. I don’t mean in this case a Canadian living in the United States; I mean someone whose home planet had a different circadian than Earth’s 24-hour cycle. Sam’s natural circadian was for a day somewhere between 26 and 27 hours, and there is no planet in our solar system with that circadian. So if Sam’s internal circadian matched some other humanoid species, it was from another star system; or maybe we need to look more closely at some brane in the 11th Dimension.

The point is, I’m writing this at about 11:00 PM on July 7th — and often enough, that’s about when Sam would be downing his first beer for the Heinlein-Konkin Birthday Party, which would be the official start of the party.

Aside from family members, Robert A. Heinlein and Samuel Edward Konkin III were the two most influential men in my life. Heinlein shaped my childhood through his novels and short stories; and he gets this place above other authors who were influential — such as C.S. Lewis — because I eventually met and became friends with Heinlein. C.S. Lewis had passed before I’d read him.

I wrote about Heinlein when he passed:

Sooner or later we all imagine there’s a set of technical manuals our parents were supposed to give us at birth with instructions on How Life Works.

Not that thick book called The Purpose of Your Life. You get that one later. These are “How To” manuals. Each is called Getting By When You’re Up The Creek Without a Paddle, Fighting Back When You’re Sick of Getting Pushed Around, Love — What It is and How to Survive It, or How to Keep From Going Crazy When Everyone Around You Already Is.

Obviously, sometime before you were born, your parents pawned the manuals for a down payment on a Chevy. Or maybe the tomes went overboard when their parents emigrated to America. Or were they incinerated during the big library fire in Alexandria?

Anyway, people keep fudging up replacements. You’ll find them in the Philosophy section, the Psychology section, the Science section, and (Someone help you) the UFO Abduction/Tarot/Astrology/Numerology section.

Look no further: you’ll find the closest thing to the Lost Manuals in the science fiction section: the author was Robert A. Heinlein.

An engineer by trade, Heinlein knew that while machines can be duplicated, people can’t be: no set of engineering instructions could apply to several billion individuals. He gave basic working diagrams; folks would have to jury-rig things from there.

Heinlein wrote fiction because that’s what non-engineers could understand best — and he set his stories in strange lands because things were changing so fast that any land we encounter was bound to be.

Take the Lost Manual titled Getting By When You’re Up the Creek Without a Paddle. Heinlein wrote several versions, each with a different slant. In Tunnel in the Sky teenagers on a two-week survival test find themselves stranded on a virgin planet, probably for good. In Job: A Comedy of Justice a preacher on vacation finds that while God might not play dice with the universe, it’s only because He prefers other games.

In Citizen of the Galaxy a boy is sold into slavery to a crippled beggar … and eventually concludes this was the best thing that ever happened to him. And in Have Space Suit — Will Travel a high school senior is abducted by a UFO, and ultimately finds himself in a distant courtroom appointed Clarence Darrow for the entire human race; this novel comes close to combining all the Lost Manuals into one.

Love — What It Is and How to Survive It: Heinlein wrote this several times, also. In The Door Into Summer a poor inventor lives through his fiancee turning into as much fun after work as Lucrezia Borgia; cryonics and a time machine give him a second shot at love. Time travel also helps Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love find love a second time. It takes him 23 centuries to find the woman of his dreams but it turns out to be his own mother. (See previous Manual.)

As for How to Keep from Going Crazy When Everyone Around You Already Is — Heinlein considered most people “candidates for protective restraint.” Stranger in a Strange Land is Heinlein’s best attempt here. But try figuring out which characters aren’t already crazy.

Fighting Back When You’re Sick of Getting Pushed Around was Heinlein’s favorite topic. His early novel If This Goes On –, included in The Past Through Tomorrow, has a preacher combining the worst of Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, and Orel Roberts elected president; a century later a Masonic Cabal is taking on the American theocracy run by the Prophet Incarnate. Methuselah’s Children (also in TPTT) has Lazarus Long’s tribe fleeing Earth to escape genocide.

Heinlein wrote four other novels of revolution. In Sixth Column super-science drives out the Pan-Asian conquerors of America. In Red Planet colonial rebels on Mars seek Martian help against absentee rulers on Earth. In Between Planets the rebellion stretches from Venus to Mars: this is my nomination for Robert A. Heinlein’s best-written novel.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is Heinlein’s libertarian classic — the Atlas Shrugged of science fiction. The revolution is on the moon; its leaders have read Ayn Rand; and one of them, Professor Bernardo de la Paz, is based on Heinlein’s old buddy, Robert LeFevre of Rampart College.

Robert A. Heinlein, in his half-century career, wrote over 45 books selling forty million copies worldwide. A mindful history will place him alongside Dickens and Twain.

We must cry that his pen has been set down for the last time: we can rejoice at the immense lost legacy he has regained for us.

When SEK3 passed I wrote the following:

I first met Sam in 1971 in New York City, at the first libertarian meeting I ever attended, the New York Libertarian Association, in libertarian attorney Gary Greenberg’s living room. I’d already started a campus libertarian group at the branch of City University of New York I was attending. Sam, a believer in the “libertarian alliance” concept of stringing together libertarian groups, immediately found this naive 18-year-old worth talking to.

We found out almost immediately that we shared an interest in science fiction (particularly Robert A. Heinlein) and the works of C.S. Lewis, whose Narnian chronicles I’d read as a child. Sam was only the second other person in my life I’d met who had read Heinlein, and the first other person I’d met who’d read Lewis. It was Sam who told me that Lewis had written more than the Narnian children’s books, introduced me to Lewis’s nonfiction and adult fiction, and took me to my first meeting of the C.S. Lewis Society of New York, which we attended together regularly. Sam also took me to my first science-fiction convention, 1971’s Lunacon, in New York City, to my first world science-fiction convention, Torcon, in Toronto, ON, in 1973, and to my first meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS). We joined the just-formed Southern California C.S. Lewis Society together in 1975, and Sam and I each served on its governing council for a number of terms.

In New York, Sam took me to lectures where I met Murray Rothbard, introduced me to the writings of Ludwig von Mises, took me to my first libertarian conference at Hunter College in New York City, where I first met Robert LeFevre, and we audited recorded playings of the Brandens’ Basic Principles of Objectivism lectures together, also at Hunter College.

And, Sam and I tooled around New York City, searching out “underground gourmet” restaurants, and always (on the first day when possible) catching the latest Woody Allen movie or the latest James Bond movie.

Sam was a speaker at both of the libertarian CounterCon conferences on countereconomics I organized in 1974 and 1975.

We left New York together to come out to the promised land, Southern California, where he lived the rest of his life, except for two years in Las Vegas. Our automobile journey west with two other libertarians (Bob “Kedar” Cohen and Andy Thornton), in July and August 1975, took us to the Rivercon science fiction convention in Louisville,KY, and to the home of science-fiction magazine publisher Richard E. Geis in Portland, before we arrived in Los Angeles on August 10, 1975, where we spent our first night sleeping on the apartment floor of Dana Rohrabacher, Sam’s libertarian mentor, and now U.S. Congressman from Orange County, CA. Even today Congressman Rohrabacher still speaks fondly of Sam’s genius and imagination.

Dana introduced us to independent filmmaker Chris Schaefer, who managed an apartment complex in Long Beach. This became the AnarchoVillage (named after Sam’s recent six-floor walk-up apartment on East 11th Street in NYC which he’d dubbed the AnarchoSlum) and we lived two apartments away from each other until 1984. Many, many days were spent collating, folding, stapling, and mailing out magazines (many with articles of mine) with eating and drinking afterwards. When I was broke in those days, Sam was always happy to pick up the check and lay a “meal ob” on me, a concept we got from Eric Frank Russell’s libertarian SF novel, The Great Explosion.

A few years later I returned the favor when I set Sam up in an apartment he dubbed the AnarchoVilla, on Overland Avenue in Culver City. That apartment was production central for my book publishing. Sam was the production backbone and book designer for every book that came out from Pulpless.Com, and a talented graphic artist for many of the covers.

So, continue the tradition. Heinlein probably wouldn’t care what’s in your glass if you’re making a toast to them; but Sam had a firm belief that any beer you could see through wasn’t worth drinking.

Unless, of course that’s all that’s left in the bathtub.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

Bookmark and Share